Edmonton budget talks Day 1: West LRT funding, Lewis Farms rec centre postponement debated

Edmonton city council dove into the first of three days of budget deliberations on Wednesday, brainstorming ideas to keep costs low, including the possibility of deferring a new rec centre and putting a hold on West LRT funding.

The city is currently dealing with nearly $185 million less in infrastructure funding because of provincial cuts.

Councillors asked questioned about several construction projects since some were going to be supported by a provincial grant that was cut in the United Conservatives’ October budget.

Acting deputy city manager (finance) Adam Laughlin said if the city filled the gap by borrowing money, it would mean a 0.43 per cent tax increase on a sliding scale over a four-year cycle that would start, if approved, in 2021.

Council would like to keep the property tax increase at the original 2.6 per cent mark for 2020. There is even talk it could be reduced if more programs are cut.

West LRT Line

Councillor Tim Cartmell suggested replacing the West LRT with bus rapid transit.

“I would like to have us reconsider the funding for the West LRT line,” he said.

Cartmell was ruled out of order because he previously voted against the city borrowing $2.4 billion to build the line, which the majority of council voted for.

“No rails and steel wheels, rubber tires on asphalt, which we can do very well, for a lot less money,” Cartmell said.

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